The Savanna Historical Society recently received a very special handmade quilt, known as a “Slave Quilt” from Judy Schreiber, Thomson, IL. It will be on display on Saturday, July 20th at the Savanna Museum and Cultural Center, 406 Main Street.
Judy will present a program at 2:00 explaining the various messages or codes in the quilt blocks.
Some people believe Slave Quilts were used as coded maps to help slaves escape. The quilt patterns, used in a certain order, relayed messages to slaves preparing to escape using the Underground Railroad in the 1800s. Each pattern represented a different meaning. Some of the most common patterns were “Monkey Wrench,” “Star,” “Crossroads” and “Wagon Wheel.” Others think the quilt patterns were visual maps that showed the directions for the routes north. Whether the quilts and their secret directions were actually utilized as tools on the Underground Railroad remains unclear. As oral histories leave no written record, there is no written proof that the codes in the quilt patterns actually existed. What remain are the stories passed down through the generations from the slaves themselves, and, in keeping with the code of secrecy, many of the stories were never told. However, the legend has been passed down from generation to generation and is now an important piece of American History.